The struggle for the GOP Presidential nomination remains wide open and lavishly unpredictable with no front runner or clearly defined contours. Any one of five candidates could become the party's standard bearer -- Romney, Rudy, Huckabee, McCain and even Thompson. Even long-time skeptics now acknowledge the very real possibility (that I predicted some six months ago): that these contenders battle it out inconclusively for more than six months, continuing the contest all the way to the convention in Minneapolis, with no candidate commanding a clear majority of first ballot delegates.
Meanwhile, as the nation waits for a Presidential nominee there's an increasingly obvious choice for the Vice Presidential nomination, based on five iron-clad and important Running Mate Rules. Whoever wins the top spot on the ticket should pay close attention to the record of recent campaigns and select the inescapable candidate based on these undeniable principles:
RULE 1: FAMILIAR AND REASSURING BEATS NEW AND "EXCITING"
The most successful running mates of recent years were well-known, highly respected senior statesmen -- not newcomers or rookies. Lyndon Johnson (who ran with Kennedy in '60), George H.W. Bush (who ran twice with Reagan), Lloyd Bentsen (who helped Michael Dukakis as his running mate in 1988), and Dick Cheney all re-assured voters that their relatively inexperienced standard-bearers would benefit from their sage counsel and extensive experience. LBJ had already established himself as the most powerful man in Congress as Senate Majority Leader; GWH Bush, Bentsen and Cheney all boasted a combination of both Congressional experience and prior service as major cabinet level officers. At the other extreme, whenever Presidential candidates attempt to add "excitement" to the ticket by selecting little-known "fresh faces," it ends up as an exciting, fresh-faced flop-- often sealing the ticket's defeat. When Dwight Eisenhower picked the youthful newcomer Richard Nixon (only 39 years old) in 1952, the Nixon Fund/"Checkers" scandal almost forced him from the ticket. Goldwater's selection of obscure, upstate New York Congressman William Miller (father of today's leftist radio talk radio host Stephanie Miller) to run with him in '64 only cemented the public impression of the Arizona Senator as a hopeless fringe candidate (he lost in a landslide).